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Contributory Negligence Rule

When I was growing up, everything was my fault. Call it middle child syndrome, call it karma, call it whatever you want, to my parents- if it had to do with me, and it was negative? All on me. Bad grade on test? You didn’t study enough. Tripped down the stairs? You weren’t paying attention. Someone spills water on my backpack and ruins my TI-89 calculator? Why was your backpack there in the first place, you caused this. You get the gist, a bird could poop on me where I stood and my parents would find a way to prove that it was my fault. Now, thanks to them I have a strong sense of responsibility and preparedness to get me through life, but without knowing it, I grew up with a greater understanding of how contributing to accidents can be harmful to a claim.

Virginia is a Contributory Negligence Rule state, meaning, if you’ve been in an accident and you’ve contributed to causing the accident, even 1%, you can be found liable for the accident and your claim becomes moot. For example, Ally crosses GW Parkway without looking both ways, stupidly trusting that no one would dare hit a pedestrian. Tom is driving home, messing with the music, texting Gale, playing with the temperature controls, and fixing his mirror, basically driving as negligently as possible. He hits Ally and she takes him to court. Only problem? The entire case is thrown out, because the accident would not have happened had Ally not acted carelessly. It doesn’t matter that Tom was behaving negligently, because there is no proof that the accident would have happened without Ally’s poor decision. Ally contributed to her injuries and will pay the price for them. This is what happens in a “Pure” Contributory Negligence state, which only applies to Alabama, the District of Columbia, Maryland, North Carolina, and Virginia. In all the other 46 states the plaintiff’s recovery is simply diminished by the extent to which he or she contributed to the harm, also known as comparative negligence.

Defense attorneys are constantly trying to catch plaintiffs in the act of contributing to their accidents. What may seem asinine to you, “I changed the radio station right before she rear ended me”, might be all a defense attorney needs to poke holes into liability. Defense attorneys are trying to prove that the plaintiff acted recklessly, and were negligent in protecting their own safety. Just like my parents, they may try to blame the plaintiff for the accident, but with a skilled personal injury attorney behind you will be able to prove that it was simply an unfortunate occurrence.

 

DISCLAIMER: THIS IS NOT LEGAL ADVICE OR INSTRUCTION. MERELY AN INFORMATIVE POST.

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Thomas J. Curcio
Founder

Tom Curcio, the driving force behind Curcio Law, is a dedicated trial lawyer with more than 35 years of experience in Northern Virginia. He has dedicated his career to representing people who have been seriously injured through no fault of their own. He works tirelessly to obtain the compensation his clients are legally entitled to…

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Rakin Hamad
Associate

Rakin Hamad is a recent graduate of the George Mason Law School and joined Curcio Law as an associate in August 2018. Rakin works closely with Tom Curcio and staff in preparing cases from the initial client meeting through trial and has been a perfect fit for the firm. During law school, Rakin interned at…

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Julia Martinez
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Julia Martinez, a Florida native, joined Curcio Law as a paralegal in 2013. She began her legal career in 1998 working at a personal injury firm that primarily handled automobile accidents, slip and falls, and products liability cases. Then, in 2008 she expanded her knowledge by working at two other law firms. She obtained her…

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Kathy McAfee
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As the firm’s office manager, Kathy McAfee is dedicated to making sure the office runs smoothly and that the team has what it needs by way of resources, technology, and supplies to best serve our clients. Kathy graduated with a B.A. in Sociology from Roanoke College in 1986 and afterward, returned to Alexandria. She began…

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Maureen Burke, RN, MSN
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Maureen Burke was born and raised in the Boston, Massachusetts area and relocated to the Alexandria area in 1984 where she and her husband raised their three children. Maureen graduated with a BS in Nursing from Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire and an MS in Nursing from George Mason University. Maureen has worked at…

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